So I'd like to give the presumably higher-powered nvidia half of the hardware a try. I do see the hardware here:
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$ inxi -SMCGx System: Host: ebbetts Kernel: 4.15.0-32-generic x86_64 bits: 64 gcc: 7.3.0 Desktop: Cinnamon 3.8.8 (Gtk 3.22.30-1ubuntu1) Distro: Linux Mint 19 Tara Machine: Device: laptop System: LENOVO product: 20E1S0NE00 v: ThinkPad W550s serial: N/A Mobo: LENOVO model: 20E1S0NE00 serial: N/A UEFI [Legacy]: LENOVO v: N11ET34W (1.10 ) date: 08/20/2015 CPU: Dual core Intel Core i7-5600U (-MT-MCP-) arch: Broadwell rev.4 cache: 4096 KB flags: (lm nx sse sse2 sse3 sse4_1 sse4_2 ssse3 vmx) bmips: 10376 clock speeds: max: 3200 MHz 1: 912 MHz 2: 1024 MHz 3: 1537 MHz 4: 1109 MHz Graphics: Card-1: Intel HD Graphics 5500 bus-ID: 00:02.0 Card-2: NVIDIA GM108GLM [Quadro K620M / Quadro M500M] bus-ID: 08:00.0 Display Server: x11 (X.Org 1.19.6 ) driver: intel Resolution: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org OpenGL: renderer: Mesa DRI Intel HD Graphics 5500 (Broadwell GT2) version: 4.5 Mesa 18.0.5 Direct Render: Yes
That probably should have warned me off, but I did try directly installing a bunch of nvidia packages directly with apt. That got me to the point where I could select the nvidia option in the prime applet, reboot as instructed, and get to the login screen, but actually logging in would cause a Cinnamon crash and start in safe mode. My knowledge of the right log and config files to inspect is sufficiently rusty that I'm not sure if it was using the nvidia driver successfully before trying to start Cinnamon or not.
Given that I'm not positive I got the apt-based install of the nvidia packages right, I did an
apt remove --purge nvidia*, and now I'm inclined to start over trying to understand why Device Manager didn't spot my nvidia card. But I'd happy to get advice on how to approach this from any direction - flashing black borders/boxes on the Intel driver, Device Manager's unhelpfulness, or the right way to install nvidia drivers for Optimus without it.